Jim Siergey: Super Sunday

January 24th, 2015

The Super Bowl is coming up. I often watch the spectacle, or at least, parts of it but I always forget to watch what everyone gets excited about —the commercials.

I’m so programmed to grab the remote control as soon as a commercial comes on the ol’ idiot box and surf through whatever other channels are not showing commercials that I always miss the celebrated Super Bowl ads.

I also always miss the Super Bowl halftime show because I’m conditioned to get up and leave the room as soon as halftime arrives. Since marching bands are no longer performing at halftime, why hang around?

I understand that there have been some interesting artists performing at halftime—Springsteen , Prince, Justin Bieber. Actually I don’t think Bieber Boy has performed…has he? A halftime performance by JB just seems so unrelated to the rough, tough sport of football. Despite the fact that Justin did egg his neighbor’s house in a very rough and tough manner, even Paulie Shore would be a more masculine act.

Hell, Disney’s Frozen on Ice would be more masculine.

But, I’m not one to judge.

Speaking of judging, I don’t get this whole deflated balls controversy. Everyone knows that rampant steroid use leads to deflated balls. Why bring it up now?

Most of my friends are not sports enthusiasts so when I watch the Super Bowl, I do it Macaulay Caulkin style—home alone. Way back when, in the late ‘70s, I was invited to a Super Bowl party. A foot of snow was dropped onto Chicagoland the night before but that wasn’t going to stop me from attending my first Super Bowl party.

jimsiergeysuperbowl

Jim’s got a million of `em…

 

Through sheer grit and determined perseverance, I made it to my friend Tim’s apartment, parking in front of a snow-covered fire hydrant. I turned out to be the only guest who showed up and Tim had to leave to go help his wife stuck in a snow drift somewhere so, once again, I ended up watching the game by myself, just in someone else’s home for a change.

I once watched the Super Bowl when I was in Mexico—in Spanish, of course, on a small screen “rabbit ears” antennaed TV. The reception was so bad and the pixels so jumbled, it was like watching football played in psychedelic snow.

Which wasn’t a bad way to watch it.

This year I’ve been invited to a friend’s abode to watch the big game. Big game. One of my favorite quotes about the Super Bowl was uttered in the 1980s by Dallas Cowboys’ running back Duane Thomas, “If the Super Bowl is really the ultimate game, why do they play it again next year?”

Since I will be a guest, I will not be in control of the remote control so I expect that I will finally be able to watch the ballyhooed Super Bowl commercials. I hope I’m not disappointed. I’m also looking forward to watching my first Super Bowl halftime show.

A’course, with my luck it will turn out to be Justin Bieber.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was A Ride With Me

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Jim Siergey: A Ride With Me

January 20th, 2015

I’ve often been accused of looking for things that aren’t there, misinterpreting comments, always expecting the worse and all that kind of stuff.

Someone could greet me or say something innocuous and I’ll pick up on the tone of voice or posture and determine that I was being insulted or attacked.

“Did you hear what she just said to me?” I’ll say to my wife in voce sotto.

“She said ‘Happy Birthday’”

“Yeah, but did you pick up on how she said it? She may as well have said ‘I hope you drop dead with your next breath, you bastard’.”

“She has a cold.”

“It’s not that bad of a cold.”

“She gave you a present.”

“Look at the way it’s wrapped. In the most blatant I-don’t-give-a-shit manner I’ve ever seen.”

“Did you notice that one of her arms is broken and in a sling?”

“Yeah, well…but, still.”

However, even I can admit that sometimes I can take misperceptions to extremes.

christopherwalkeddriving

I was driving in the rain…

 

Recently, I was driving in the rain so I had the windshield wipers on. They’re new so they squeak while they’re pendulumating across the window. After several minutes of listening to this strange rhythm they were squeaking in, I proclaimed to my wife, the pour soul who was my passenger.

“Do you hear that?”

“What?”

“The wipers. Listen.”

“They squeak.”

“Yeah, but the squeaks alternate in pitch. As they go back and forth, there are three different tones. ”

“They’re just rubbing against the glass.”

“No, no, there’s a definite speech-like pattern to it. It sounds like they’re saying ‘We judge you.’”

“Wha-at?”

“Listen. ‘We—judge—you!’ Notice how the pitch goes up on the ‘you’ part?”

“You’re crazy.”

“It’s as obvious as all get-out. Listen. We judge you, we judge you, we—”

“I suppose this is another part of the Great Machine Conspiracy?”

“Well, you know machines have had it in for me for years. Toasters, VCRs, microwaves—they all plot against me but this—this is getting overtly defiant.”

“It’s just squeaky wiper blades.”

“You judge me, eh? Well, I’ll show you, I’ll just turn you off!”

“Honey, it’s pouring rain. Visibility is nil.”

“I won’t be judged, I tell you! Not by a pair of windshield wipers and not in my own car. I’ll just pull over here and wait until the rain lets up.”

“This is silly. Really. Just get over it and let’s —”

“Shhh. Do you hear how the engine is idling? It seems to be say—hey, where are you going?”

“I’m catching a bus!”

SLAM!

It ain’t easy being me.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was I’m No Steve Reeves

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Jim Siergey: I’m No Steve Reeves

January 11th, 2015

I was doing a crossword puzzle and the four letter answer to the German auto clue was not AUDI but OPEL.

I once owned an Opel, a red 1967 Opel Kadette.

The thing was basically a tin can on wheels and there were two schools of thought as to what it sounded like when in motion. Some thought it sounded like a World War I airplane while others, which included myself, thought it sounded like an old Singer sewing machine.

It was a sporty, fun car to drive—zipping around the city, easy to maneuver into tiny parking places. Yep, it was a sporty, fun car to drive…when the sun was shining.

If there was any hint of precipitation in the air, it would not start. Even if it was being driven and it began to rain—it would stop. I was driving down Lake Shore Drive once when the heavens opened up and the durn thing just shut down. Fortunately I was in the right hand lane near an exit so I was able to coast and jump start it by popping the clutch and forcing it by will to get me home.

I changed all the wiring and spark plugs but to no avail. That fussy little Teutonic tin can just did not like motivating in moisture. In fact, it didn’t really like to start period.

That Opel was push started so many times that the rear license plate became crumpled to the point of unreadability. I got stopped by the cops once because of that crumpled license plate. I had to jump thru some hoops to prove to the officer that the vehicle was indeed mine…as if someone would actually want to steal it.

Even car thieves have standards.

stevereeves

Steve Reeves…

 

I have used the term ‘tin can’ to describe it and I’m not exaggerating. It was so lightweight that if someone with an auto was not around to push start the thing, my wife and I both became very adept at push starting it ourselves. With driver’s side door open and one hand guiding the steering wheel and the other pushing on the frame, either of us could glide it down the street and when enough speed was built up, hop in and pop the clutch to jump start it.

Timing was important as there was a traffic light at the end of the street but, as I said, we got good at it. Once past the light, there were a series of streets in an industrial area where we could drive around and get little Opie warmed up for stop-and-go city travel.

If one applied enough pressure (and it didn’t take much) with one’s hand to the body of this aluminumized auto, one could make an imprint in its hood, roof or trunk. One snowy winter, I was changing a flat tire and after removing the tire, the jack slipped out. I was able to hold the chassis up with my shoulder until I pushed the tire under the exposed wheel and reposition the jack.

And I’m no Steve Reeves.

So, that’s the story of my Opel Kadette. It’s initials spell out O.K., which is about the best I can say about it. Now, what’s a five letter word for ‘tart fruit’?

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Soap Ops

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Chris Lamberti: Message in a Baby Bottle

January 6th, 2015

My wife and I recently rolled the dice on our first baby. It takes guts to commit to a child months prior to birth and sight unseen, with no refund or exchange policy. It’s totally un-American.

The freedom to choose your own offspring seems pretty fundamental. And you’d think by now there’d be a couple of infant big box store chains.

In the end, despite its despotic undertones, we gave childbirth a try. And I fear the result is not of this planet.

It speaks in mumbles and gurgles and flails about without being able to crawl or walk. But don’t be fooled. This strange being has the power to manipulate human minds! To turn us into a slave species!

It started the moment my daughter was born. The first time I laid eyes on her it was like I loved her.

That’s right, loved her! I didn’t even know her!

madonnabaseball

Chris is secretly hoping his daughter becomes a great baseball player!

 

Already she had her extrasensory meat hooks in me. My brain was putty in her telepathic hands.

Before you know it, we were back at home. And I was hand feeding her, cleaning up her excrement, and rocking her in my arms until my back ached something fierce. And I didn’t even care!

She had me draining my bank account for diapers and baby wipes and I paid it no mind.

She even took my spot in the bedroom. I was relegated to a few hours of sleep on the couch while she slept all the time. And yet, I was happy, exceedingly so in fact, blissfully going about my business.

I tell you her powers are for real!

My wife is under her spell as well. The grandparents have fallen prey too. Who’s to say she’ll stop with us? Where will it all end? My neighborhood? This city? The world? Interplanetary domination?

So if you’re reading this beware. Don’t let the baby aliens take over your mind. Be safe; stick to big box store items with warnings and warranties.

And please, for the love of all things holy, send help! And diapers.

 

Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was Root, Root, Root For Chaos

 

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Jim Siergey: Soap Ops

January 2nd, 2015

The birthday of disgraced president Richard Milhous Nixon is January 9. Thinking of Nixon makes me think of many things but one thing in particular above all—Watergate.

For all of you uninformed out there, if there are any, the term ‘Watergate’ came about from a botched break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. during an election campaign. Two intrepid reporters from the Washington Post investigated this so-called third rate burglary and “followed the money” straight to the White House.

Over time, the public’s clamor for information had grown so strident that a special Senate committee had been selected to hold hearings to see how far up the chain of command this conspiracy traveled.

We all know now that it traveled all the way up to the tip of President Richard M. Nixon’s pointy nose. But most, if not almost all, of America did not know or suspect this at the time. A’course, me and people of my ilk, suspected Tricky Dick’s involvement in this escapade but what would that mean? The powerful didn’t get punished.

The televised Watergate hearings began in May of 1973. At the time I was working in a warehouse for an outfit called Golden Dolphin that dealt in bathroom supplies. The Watergate burglars were a group known as The Plumbers.

Coincidence or destiny?

The Watergate hearings made for riveting television. So riveting that, despite being the main means of support for myself, my wife and two toddlers, I switched the status of my job from full-time to part-time so I could be home in the afternoons to watch the live televised drama unfold. Fortunately, life was a lot cheaper back then and non-materialistic hippie types like us could live on fifty bucks a week. As long as you had enough for rent, food and weed, all was copasetic.

Plus, I felt that it was the (ahem) patriotic thing to do.

What drama those Watergate hearings were! True, much of the proceedings were dry and formal with a lot of nothing much going on but alarming enlightenment would seep out. Like the layers of an onion being slowly peeled off, each bit of skin brought a new revelation.

It was self-satisfying to watch Nixon’s right-hand men, the Oval Office bullies John Erlichman and H.R. Haldeman, squirm and sweat in their seats as they tried to dance around the truth. Political henchman after henchman was called forward to the sweatbox to expose their slithery, slimey selves.

jimsiergeynixon

Nixon by Siergey…

 

Such a cast of characters there were!

Old self-proclaimed “country lawyer” Sam Ervin of North Carolina with eyebrows so bushy you could hide a yellow legal pad in ‘em, used a folksy Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry approach to glean tiny kernels of truth from a pack of lawyered up stonewallers.

Boyish John Dean, special attorney to the President, with his blonde bombshell of a wife sitting in camera view right behind him began the bean spilling. Weeks later when Alexander Butterfield, the deputy assistant to the president, shocked the chambers by declaring that there was a taping system in the Oval Office which meant that all conversations taking place therein were on fucking tape, jaws across America hit the floor so hard that it caused a mild shift in the tectonic plates.

It was a soap opera of the highest (or lowest, depending on your point of view) level. And I was hooked. I’d race home after putting in my four excruciating hours of work and plop myself in front of the tube with all my video pals—Sam, Howard, Fred, Lowell, Herman, Daniel and watch Nixon’s second term fall into pieces like a cartoon character being hit on the head with an anvil.

Before the summer was over, the hearings had ended but I was still home early in the afternoon jonesin’ for my senatorial soap opera. It was replaced with the regularly scheduled soap operas that went missing during the Watergate hearings. I found myself watching General Hospital and One Life to Live.

I don’t remember which soaper it was but one of them was very bizarre. The storyline consisted of a science-fictiony plot to blow up the world and one of the guest-starring recurring characters was none other than silver screen legend Elizabeth Taylor! So Sam and Howard and Fred were replaced by Luke and Laura and Joe Riley as well as Ms. White Diamonds herself.

The Golden Dolphin job soon went down the drain (heh-heh, they sold bathroom supplies, remember?) but other such means of employment followed until…

Sorry, that’s all the time we have for today, kiddies. Don’t forget to check under your bed and in your closet before turning in tonight. It is believed that as his birthdate nears, the ghost of Richard Nixon once again prowls the earth…and he still has his enemies list in hand.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Scrabble Words

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Jim Siergey: Scrabble Words

December 25th, 2014

I have recently been playing Words with Friends although that’s the first time I ever used that title. I generally refer to it as “Scrabble on the iPad”.

I’ve been a Scrabble player for a long time but an iPad user for only a short while. Well, I guess it’s been about a year but in Techojimmy time, that’s nothing.

I started out playing an actual game of Scrabble against the computer on a friend’s iPad. But when I got home to my own, I couldn’t find that particular app so I settled on the next best thing, Words with Friends, a Scrabble-like game with a different board layout.

I was able to play Words with Friends against myself but just typing that out sounds pathetic so I began playing it with my son who lives in New Mexico. I certainly didn’t want to start playing with complete strangers over the internet. That always ends up badly, sometimes in an abandoned warehouse with reporters and cameras.

Besides, the game is called Words with Friends and electronic unknowns ain’t friends. And don’t give me that malarkey about a friend is only someone you haven’t met yet. I’ve met plenty of people who aren’t my friends.

Playing Words with Friends long-distance as opposed to playing Scrabble in a room at a table with another person or people is a lot different. Since I’m not sitting there with someone else I cannot say things like “Come on already, make a word.” and “You playing or what?” and other helpful phrases of encouragement. Thus, turns can take an eternity.

madonnadesperately

Madonna also loves to play Scrabble!

 

Eventually, I became used to this lag time between making words. The non-existence of polite time restraints makes the game become even more of an exercise in strategy. It’s like chess with letters. But, even with this limitless amount of time to plot and search, I still find myself making a stupid decision, allowing my opponent to take my Rook or make a triple word score.

Then there’s the use of Scrabble dictionaries. I was gifted with one a few years ago but in the game of Scrabble, a dictionary is only used when one player declares a “challenge” to a word played by his opponent. Not so with Words with Friends.

My son began making words that looked more like cartoon sound effects than English language words. Such letter combinations as AE, QI, IKAT,VEERY, LEU and XU began appearing on the board—all acceptable words! Even ZA is acceptable. Now, I’ve heard that word used as a shortened way of saying ‘pizza’ but I argue that it should be spelled thusly—‘za—with an apostrophe as it is an abridged version of its root word.

But, like City Hall, you can’t fight a computer.

jimpantless

Mr. Siergey — by Mr. Siergey!

 

So, unable to carry out the alternative, I decided to join ‘em. I began using my Scrabble dictionary as a word finder. I was doing fine until my son got away with DA the other day. DA is not listed in my Scrabble dictionary (and there’s all kinds of questionable gibberish listed in there) so I texted him “WTF, man?” and he texted back asking if my dictionary was updated. The copyright date read 2010. It may as well have read 1847.

He went on to tell me that there’s an online Scrabble dictionary! Jeeze, it’s difficult enough for me to use the iPad without incident, I’m not going to venture into that world of flipping back and forth between sites. I can do that on a computer but not an iPad. (Note: Ours is an iPad Mini so I have to try to poke and press tiny icons and other miniscule screen indicia with my clumsy, seemingly bloodless fingers)

The iPad and I are not friends. It toys with me. I don’t know how to press all of its buttons correctly but it certainly knows how to press mine. There isn’t much that raises my blood pressure but the iPad sure can. In fact, computers in general can try one’s patience up to the point where one’s blood begins to boil. It’s one of the things they do.

The only other object that could heighten my blood pressure like that was a car we once owned—a 1985 Mercury Lynx, bought used at Bert Weinman’s over on Ashland Avenue. Despite the coloring of that Lynx being red, it was an absolute lemon.

After a few outings (and mis-outings) with that, that…vehicle, I could feel my blood pressure rising just by coming near it. My hand would begin to tremble as I reached for the door handle and, despite knowing better, I would find myself seated behind the wheel, my ass nearly scraping the pavement because it was built quite low to the ground and the suspension was shot, ready to have the top of my head pull a Mount St. Helens when the heap would break down or have something else go wrong with it at some point during my drive.

It has been gone from my life for years but just thinking about that red devil of an automobile lets loose in my mind a string of words that I’m sure are not listed in the Scrabble dictionary, updated or not.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was A Christmas Post..

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Jim Siergey: A Christmas Post

December 17th, 2014

Tiny Tim hobbled up to me and nudged me with his crutch.

“Pardon me, guv’nuh” he said, sounding quite a bit like Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweeper voice from Mary Poppins, “but have you a penny to spare?”

I looked down at this pitiable wretch clad in oversized cloth cap and tattered clothes who was leaning on a makeshift crutch that looked like it was constructed from the leg of an ironing board turned upside down and replied, “A penny?”

“If you haven’t got a penny” he responded, “then a ha’penny will do.”

Upon delivering this line, he tossed away his ironing board crutch and began dancing a wild jig. He continued on effortlessly, performing such athletic dance moves that he could have been a long lost Nicholas brother (and I ain’t talking Saint Nicholas, brother!).

He Gene Kellyed up concrete stairs of three flats, Fred Astaired down the railings and Donald O’Connored a mid-air somersault into a pile of freshly fallen snow before emerging a la Esther Williams.

He stood there in his Grand Finale pose, breathing heavily as well as shivering a bit, looking at me with eyes as large as the platters from Old Country Buffet.

donaldocnnor

The high-flying Donald O’Connor…

 

“Well?” I said to him leaning back on one foot while I folded my arms across my chest.

“Guv’nuh?” he replied quizzically.

“That dance routine was boffo, son.” I replied, “And that was quite the big ending but you blew the capper.”

I bent at the waist in order to lean in close to the waif’s face which was covered with both perspiration and melting snow, “Considering it was you, I was very surprised that you did.”

Tiny Tim, looking even tinier as his downcast eyes met his quivering lower lip, made for the epitome of a pitiful-looking figure before a light bulb, or in his case, a gas jet turned on above his head. Then a big smile crossed his miniscule mug and he cried out, “I got’cha, guv’nuh!”

He shook the snow off his rags and proceeded to repeat his arduous dance routine. It was even more terrific this time. Like an amphetamine gazelle, he bounded up steps, slid down the banister like an Olympic snowboarder, somersaulted like one of Jesse White’s tumblers into another pile of freshly fallen snow and emerged with arms stretched out wide, his chin thrusted skyward and loudly proclaimed “GOD BLESS US, EVERYONE!”

My applause was hearty but muted, as I was wearing thick Thinsulate® gloves, but I did cry out “Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

I helped him out of the snow drift, shook his hand, patted his head and turned to continue on my way. I had only trod a few steps before I stopped. I turned to see Tim limping over to retrieve his crutch which had bounced and slid into the street when he tossed it away. A car had run over it, bending it a bit but it appeared to still be usable.

“Hey, kid!” I cried, as I slipped off one of my gloves.

As the panting ragamuffin looked up, I tossed him a penny.

The Christmas spirit affects even a person such as I.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Keepsakes

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